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If It’s God’s Will for Me to Get COVID-19 . . .

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If it is God’s will that I get coronavirus, that is the will of the Almighty. I will not live in fear.

Robert Montanelli, Trump Rally Attendee in Tulsa, Oklahoma

On Saturday, President Donald Trump held a pep rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump bragged about how filled the Center would be, saying that 1,000,000 people requested tickets to his rally. Trump even planned for a huge outside crowd. All told, 6,200 people attended the indoor rally, and outside? Several dozen people, such sparse numbers that Trump canceled plans to address them after the main rally. Trump promised a John Holmes-like crowd. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the President, reality was much smaller than promised (just ask Stormy Daniels).

One attendee at the rally was Robert Montanelli from Broken Arrow — a Tulsa suburb. Montanelli wore a red “Keep America Great” hat and an oft-washed “Crooked Hillary for Prison” tee-shirt. When asked why he refused to wear a mask, Montanelli, with Trump-like bravado, said:

If it is God’s will that I get coronavirus, that is the will of the Almighty. I will not live in fear.

While the New York Times article that quotes Montanelli doesn’t mention his religious affiliation, his words have an Evangelical feel to them. I suspect the overwhelming majority of rally attendees were white Evangelicals. While I spotted a few blacks in the crowd, it was evident, at least to me anyway, that this water fountain was meant for Bible-quoting white Americans.

I suspect more than a few Trump supporters in attendance agreed with Montanelli: no masks needed. God is in control of everything, including the Coronavirus pandemic, and if they (or anyone else, for that matter) are infected with COIVD-19, God is to blame, not them. Of course, Evangelicals never use the word “blame” when speaking of their God’s sovereign, decretive acts, but if God holds the world in the palm of his hand, and is in control of everything, then “blame” is appropriate.

Evangelicals believe God is the first cause of everything, the creator of the universe. Thus, God is to blame for COVID-19. God is to blame for every infection and death. And yes, God should be credited for magically keeping some people from getting infected and/or dying.

In April, I wrote a post titled, No Need to Wear a Face Mask: When it’s My Time to Die, I’m Ready to Go. Here’s an excerpt from this post:

Like clockwork, my wife calls her mother every Sunday evening at 10:00 PM. They typically talk for an hour. Last Sunday, Polly asked her mom whether she was wearing a face mask when she went out in public. Mom replied, “no, I don’t need to wear a mask.” When Polly, out of concern for her eighty-four-year-old mother’s health and that of her father, told her mom, “look, you need to get a mask and wear it whenever you go out of the house.” Mom replied, “when it’s my time to die, I’m ready to go.” Polly angrily retorted, “and no one will be able to come to your funeral.” Mom smugly replied, “oh well, I won’t care. I’ll be dead.” And that was that . . .

….

Because of Mom’s intransigent fatalism, it is unlikely that we will ever see Polly’s parents again face to face. (Several weeks ago, we met them a public park for lunch. Seven hours round trip, two-hour visit.) We are not willing to risk infection, all because of her stubborn unwillingness to take basic health and safety precautions. We expect to one day hear the phone ring, and at the other end someone will be telling us one or both of them are dead. Will it be COVID-19 that kills them? I don’t know. Both of them have serious health problems. A virus such as COVID-19 would make easy work of them. We wish they would at least take basic safety precautions, but they won’t. I suspect that a month from now they will join their church family after church down at the local Olive Garden for lunch. “See, we all survived! Glory and praise to Jesus!” And three or four weeks later? Some of them may learn that their God is not in control; that their God is no match for COVID-19, influenza, or any of the other countless bacteria and viruses trying to kill us. Biology and science trump religion every time. Too bad the people who most need to hear this will be dead.

Fatalism is a foundational plank of Evangelical Christianity. Everything in life is predetermined and controlled by God. No need to worry about the Coronavirus pandemic or getting infected with COIVD-19. No need to worry about ending up in the ICU hooked up to a ventilator, dying alone. Everything that happens to you is according to God’s perfect plan for your life. So what if you get infected, suffer, and die? JESUS suffered and died for you — he suffered bigly compared to your suffering — and thanks to his resurrection from the dead, a room in Heaven’s exclusive Trump Hotel awaits you after death.

Of course, Evangelicals such as Montanelli don’t really practice what they preach. Oh, they piously talk about God being in control, but their day-to-day lives reflect the fact that they are the ones controlling their destiny. They may shoot prayers up to the ceiling God, asking for divine direction and favor, but their lives reveal that they are ones answering those prayers.

I suspect that Montanelli looks both ways before pulling into an intersection. I suspect when he goes to the doctor, that he expects to be treated with modern medical techniques. Imagine the doctor saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Let’s pray and ask God to heal you.” Why, Montanelli would rightly be upset. I suspect that every aspect of Montanelli’s life is controlled not by God, but self. Why then, did he refuse to wear a mask, saying that whether he dies or not is up to God?

Montanelli worships at the feet of the baby Christian Donald Trump. The president refuses to acknowledge or practice CDC or WHO guidelines. He wants to project manly power and strength, even though he has a hard time holding a glass or water or walking down an airplane ramp. Trump’s latest rally was one long infomercial for how great he is. Should it be surprising, then, that Trump’s followers try to emulate him? Montanelli’s bravado is not so much about God and Christianity as it is his need to act like his hero. Sure, Montanelli is a believer, but the central figure in this story is Donald J. Trump, not God.

And if Montanelli contracts COVID-19? Will he “let go and let God?” Will he passively trust that God will, come what may, take care of him? Will he seek medical care? Will he take whatever drugs doctors prescribe? Will he encourage his family members to wear masks? Something tells me that when faced with serious illness and death, Montanelli will do everything in his power to stay alive.

And his boy Trump? Much like God, he will be AWOL. Montanelli will learn that he is on his own, that his life rests not in the hands of Jesus, but in the hands of qualified medical professionals.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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21 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Darcy

    I always wonder if “those people” also drive drunk, refuse to wear seatbelts, speed on highways, or refuse to put small children in child seats, because “it is all in God’s hands.” Or maybe because being sensible violates their civil rights.

  2. Avatar
    Ami

    Pisses me off that idiots like that guy will pass the virus on to MANY people before they’re incapacitated. Do I care if HE gets sick? Nope. But I care that he’s willing to spread the infection, unchecked.
    Although I suppose one could liken the virus to Christianity… makes everyone sick and apparently can’t be stopped.

  3. Avatar
    BJW

    Good grief. There was a guy interviewed before the rally, who had lost a friend and nearly lost the friend’s son from Covid-19, but he just didn’t know what the truth was. A complete idiot.

  4. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Driving through the Sierra Foothills (Eastern Central California) the other day, I briefly ended up behind a pickup truck flying a large Trump 2020 flag from the back of the cab. His rear window had the name and logo of a local church, probably an independent Evangelical congregation (there seem to be a lot of those in the Sierra Foothills). He had an Infowars bumper sticker.

    To be honest, I never saw the driver, so I’m just assuming male. It is an antiquated assumption, and properly I should use the singular ‘they’. Somehow, that doesn’t feel right for this driver. I guess I have my own biases. But I suspect he is a covidiot as well.

    I am spending a couple of weeks in far Eastern California, where the nearest town with any significant commerce is in Nevada. My home county in the San Francisco Bay Area has not allowed hair salons to open yet. They’ve been open for several weeks in Nevada, by appointment only. Do I go get a much-needed haircut? My health is such that I must be extremely careful. The Nevadans are somewhat casual about Covid precautions, as are the people in Eastern California.

    This is hard enough without jerks deciding that they shouldn’t take precautions because of “the will of God”. Grrrrr.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Evangelicals certainly have a complicated relationship with their deity. They profess that their deity is in control and has an unknowable plan, yet they act whatever way suits them at the time. If they want something badly enough, they will do whatever it takes to make it happen. If they don’t feel like taking responsibility for something, they will sit back and chalk the outcome up to their deity’s will. I wonder how much agency they think they really have? And if their deity really is in control, why do they worry so much about fighting Satan, demons, and Democrats over their precious culture wars?

  6. Avatar
    Southern Lady

    I suspect the guy is thinking this way because he feels the risk is low to begin with.

    Also, the “not living in fear” part–that reminds me of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. His friend finally decides to stand up and face his abusive father because “I’m tired of being afraid all the time.” Living in constant fear wears on you. Deciding to stop being a fearful person can feel quite empowering.

    I tend to live a lot of my life in fear re myself or my children. It’s just the way I am. But, I don’t recommend it. It’s not a fun way to live. When I come across non-worriers, I’m quite jealous. Their relaxed attitude makes for a happier life.

    Anyway, this guy at the rally used his own judgement to assess the risk and decided it was probably pretty low, I’d guess.

    We all have different comfort levels re this stuff. So, we use our own judgement, and if we believe in God, we hope he leans a little on our side.

    Whatever we decide to do re where we go or if we wear a mask-I don’t think that indicates we’re a jerk or an idiot or any other label.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      He doesn’t fear because he thinks his God will protect him.

      Wearing masks in public gatherings is a civic duty. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, should we not do all we can to keep from infecting them with COVID-19? Is this man a jerk or an idiot? I don’t know. I do know, however, that he is careless, thoughtless, and selfish.

      • Avatar
        Southern Lady

        He’s quoted as saying, “If it’s God’s will that I get coronavirus, that is the will of the Almighty. I will not live in fear.”

        He doesn’t say God will protect him. He wasn’t asked that. He was asked why he refuses to wear a mask.

        Maybe he does think God will protect him. We can’t know what he’s thinking.

        Maybe his bigger point is saying he won’t live in fear.

        If I know I have COVID-19, certainly it is my civic duty as a decent person to stay away from others so they don’t get it.

        I’m assuming this man has no symptoms and hasn’t been in a high-risk situation recently. Hey, for all we know, he got tested two days prior. Anyway, he’s probably quite confident that he himself does not have the virus, so why should he wear a mask to protect others? Protect them from what? Sure, he could be someone who has it without symptoms, but that’s probably unlikely. I don’t know how many symptom-less carriers there are.

        If I was there, I’d be somewhat worried about getting the virus, so I’d wear a mask to protect myself. But his comfort level might be different from mine.

        I don’t think not wearing a mask is careless, thoughtless and selfish. I think it means you’re not worried about getting the virus for whatever reason.

        Anyway, I find this somewhat confusing, because there’s wearing a mask to protect yourself, and there’s wearing a mask to protect others. So whether you do or don’t and why would depend on the situation.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          His words reflect a certain theological position about God and his control of the universe. As a Christian for 50 years and an Evangelical pastor for 25 of those years, I heard and said these exact words countless times. So, I’m on sold ground when I say he thinks God is protecting him.

          120,000 people dead, a likely undercount. The largest COVID-19 infection rate in the world. An infection rate still climbing, and I suspect the worst is yet to come. We KNOW three things that lessen transmission: wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing. These three things should be mandated at the federal/state level. No one should be permitted to be around others without practicing these three things. I see it as a moral, civic duty. Other countries have mandated mask wearing, social distancing, and, if necessary, quarantine. Result? Lowered infection rates/deaths. We need such laws in the United States.

          Why should comfort level play any part in controlling/managing a global,pandemic? The only issue is lessening infections and deaths. Since when has comfort level had any part in public health policy? Leave it up to personal whim, individual choice, and comfort level and we’d have children and adults alike dropping dead from measles, polio, whooping cough,etc.

          • Avatar
            Southern Lady

            You may be right, Bruce. Good point at the end about requiring vaccines.

            But, you did make me laugh about mandating hand washing. How would that work exactly?

          • Avatar
            Southern Lady

            Thanks, BJW. I did go to your source. It does make sense. I’ll probably continue to be confused, though.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Fair point. It seems to me many Americans would like everyone to get infected, those who are going to die, die, all so their lives aren’t too inconvenienced and they can return to their way of lives pre-virus.

      I don’t think we have the collective will to do the right things. “Dammit, we are Americans, land of the free, home of the brave, don’t tread on the me. How dare the government tell us what to do!”

      I’m so tired of such ignorant, stupid thinking.

  7. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Re “Fatalism is a foundational plank of Evangelical Christianity. Everything in life is predetermined and controlled by God.” This makes no sense whatsoever. This belief make us God’s puppets, nothing better. Life on Earth isn’t even a test or any discriminator of whether one goes to Heaven or Hell? What is the purpose, then, of Life on Earth? Are we God’s equivalent of a child’s ant farm? According to these folks, our lives on Earth have no purpose. Nihilism pure and simple.

    I was aware of this position before but it being widespread is amazing. It makes a mockery of Christianity, so it is a very strange set of beliefs.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Of course, Evangelicals will deny my claims, using all sorts of theological mumbo-gumbo and magic to justify their beliefs. However, to me the issue is quite simple. If you believe your God is the first cause of everything, then it logically follows he is culpable, responsible for everything that happens.

  8. Avatar
    dale m

    I’ve seen this phoney baloney “I will not live in fear” before. It’s soooo obvious that he lives in constant fear. Tell this silly character that U R amazed at how much trust he has in the almighty’s protection. Ask this phoney Montanelli character if he would support the complete dismantling of all of America’s nuclear weapons as well as her military might to save $800 billion/ yr with which to feed and house the Christian poor among us? Tell him not to worry. No real enemy with nuclear weapons can possibly harm Christians under the Almighty’s protection. Watch the white fear flow across his face. Trapped! Stamped! Delivered!

    Then! Just to turn the blade once you’ve stuck it in deeply ….. “U remind me of atheists who R just as courageous and who don’t live in fear of Hell either!” (But at least our belief is honest. His is a lie).

  9. Avatar
    GeoffT

    I can understand the need to wear a mask in many parts of the US, where people seem to regard the right to transmit the virus a protected, constitutional, one. In countries that have more heed to civic responsibilities I’m not so sure. The WHO itself is still unsure about the need for face masks though it is now, on balance, recommending their use. As I understand masks, other than specialist clinical types, do not stop one catching the virus, but do inhibit its transmission. If people who think they have the symptoms then, pending testing, they should remain at home. So nobody exhibiting symptoms should be outside to begin with. If people are asymptomatic then, by definition, they aren’t exhibiting behaviours likely to spread the virus, so other than breathing, which is almost a nil transmission risk, there is no advantage to them wearing masks. In the UK we are obliged to wear masks on public transport and in individual shops requiring it, but I see it as conforming with a rule rather than actually being a benefit.

    • Avatar
      Southern Lady

      It seems to me the main issue is-if you are sick, stay away from other people, and if you must be near others for some reason, wear a mask and keep your distance as much as possible.

      It doesn’t make sense to me that every single person in the whole country should wear a mask in public, period.

    • Avatar
      thatotherjean

      Wait, now. . .asymptomatic carriers cough, sneeze, sing, chant, shake hands, hug friends and family, and “exhibit behaviors likely to spread the virus,” just like the rest of us. The difference between us and them is that they can spread COVID-19 by doing these things, even if they don’t know they’re spreading it. To avoid spreading it, as much as possible,all people should wear masks when they are in the company of other people. Those who do have it and don’t know it will be less likely to spread it, and those who don’t have it will be less likely to catch it if everybody is masked. Mask-wearing isn’t particularly comfortable or convenient, but it’s the decent thing to do.

      • Avatar
        GeoffT

        To Thatotherjean I’d say that I entirely agree, if you engage those behaviours of kissing and hugging etc. However, I was assuming that the rules of social distancing would maintain, as they certainly do in the UK where I can’t even touch my close family that I don’t live with. I’m referring to casual encounters when outside, or even in shops, all providing social distancing maintains.

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